What's Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability in reading. Kids with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. As a result they also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling and writing.

Raising a child with dyslexia is a journey. As you move through it, you’ll gain a lot of knowledge about your child’s challenges with reading—and about the many ways you can help her succeed at school and in life.

If you’re concerned your child may have dyslexia, here are some steps you can take. And if you’ve just gotten a dyslexia diagnosis or school identification, learn what you can do next. This overview can answer many of your basic questions. It can also lead you to more in-depth information about this common learning issue.


Could your child be at risk for dyslexia?

About half of all struggling readers are dyslexic while the other half are reading delayed. Let’s look at dyslexia first. Dyslexia should be seen not as a learning disability, but as a specific reading disorder. Dyslexics can learn many things very well. In fact, they can be exceptionally good learners of skills and tasks that involve the right side of the brain. Unfortunately, they struggle with reading and learning from text or print and therefore are often left behind in our school system.

It is fortunate that, the stigma and the mystery behind dyslexia is starting to lift thanks in part to the research by neurobiologists Dr Sally Shaywitz at Yale and Dr. Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University. Their research has shown that reading is a largely left brain activity. Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin. Dyslexics have difficulty accessing the reading centres in the left side of the brain. Dr Shaywitz states: “There is a glitch in the neurological wiring in the brain of dyslexics which prevents them from linking letters with the sounds they make.”

The following diagram explains the difference between a non-impaired and dyslexic brain. (Shaywitz S., 2003, Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Program for Reading Problems at Any Level , page 83, Knopf, New York).

Often reading disabled students in my learning strategies classes would move their lips as if reading out loud to themselves. This suggests they are over using the frontal lobe, and under utilizing the reading centres in the back of the left side of the brain. All of my students were identified through their IEP as Learning Disabled ~ Communication.

I suspect that most of them were dyslexic. I had great success improving their reading fluency using Orton-Gillingham based software. When students with a specific reading disability (dyslexia) receive training in the foundation skills of reading, namely phonemic awareness, sound symbol association (phonics), decoding, vocabulary and comprehension new neural connections are made to the reading centres on the left side of the brain.

“One year following effective reading intervention, dyslexic children have developed left-side reading systems ( shown in black) in both the front and back of the brain.”

— Shaywitz S., 2003, Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Program for Reading Problems at Any Level, page 86, Knopf, New York